It’s taken me four months to write up, but as usual, I’ve made a Spotify mixtape of my favourite music (and, this year, spoken word), both new and old, that I discovered last year.
If you like something you hear, please follow the artist on social media, buy their music and/or go and see they live, because Spotify pays diddly squat.
1. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
A hero. Cohen wrote this song (with Patrick Leonard) for his final album, speaking pretty directly about his own mortality and embracing his Jewishness. His son Adam Cohen was the producer and the Shaar Hashomayim Choir from the synagogue of that name in Montreal feature. Of the choir he wrote, ‘ Even as a boy I loved their singing. It is what made compulsory synagogue attendance enjoyable. I’ve wanted to work with the cantor and the choir for a long time. The touring years interrupted this intention. On a secondary but still urgent note, there are times when you want to show the flag, when you want to indicate that there is nourishment to be had from this culture, that it is not entirely irrelevant to the present situation, that it does not serve a nation’s best interests to reject and despise it. This is more important in some countries than in others.’
From ‘You Want It Darker’ (Sony Music, 2016)
2. Carole King – I feel the Earth move
The album Tapestry has been a favourite of my parents for years. I think the CD disappeared when they were burgled (in the days when CDs were worth stealing!) and wasn’t replaced for years, so I never got to know it until it was album in residence in the car on holiday in Extramedura, Spain this year. Me and Owen loved it and I could have picked almost any of the tracks for this mix. ‘I feel the Earth move’ is a song I didn’t know already from covers, so made the cut.
From ‘Tapestry’ (Ode, 1971)
3. Sylvan Esso – Kick Jump Twist
I heard this on 6 Music. Lauren Laverne’s show I think. I like it. Other than that, I know nothing. Time to dip into Wikipedia: ‘Sylvan Esso is an American electronic pop duo from Durham, North Carolina formed in 2013. The band consists of singer Amelia Meath (Mountain Man) and producer Nick Sanborn (Megafaun, Made of Oak).’
From ‘What Now’ (Caroline International, 2017)
4. Ella Fitzgerald with Ernie Hecksher’s Big Band – Sunshine of Your Love
Another 6 Music discovery, this one courtesy of my old mucker Cerys Matthews. This is from an album recorded in the Fairmont hotel, San Francisco, in October 1968, of contemporary covers by the American jazz singer and a local big band. The original was, of course, by Cream.
From ‘Ella Fitzgerald’s Sunshine of Your Love’ (MPS Records, 1969)
5. Edgelarks – No Victory
All my favourite bands are changing their names! Jenny M. Thomas and the System became Bush Gothic a while back, Lynched are now Lankum (see below) and mixtape regulars Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin are transitioning into Edgelarks.
From ‘Edgelarks’ (Dragonfly Roots, 2017)
6. Macy Gray – Slowly
In a less sexist world that didn’t discount ‘kooky’ women, Macy Gray would be credited as a truly inspired and inventive artist on the strength of her first too albums alone. This is from her ‘jazz’ album and is a reworking of a song written by Phillip White, Jared Gosselin, George Pajon Jr, Natalie Hinds (aka Gray herself) and Justin Meldal-Johnson and originally recorded on Gray’s ‘Big’ (Polydor, 2007) album.
From ‘Stripped’ (Chesky Records, 2016)
Continued in comments…